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Specs in History

Magnifying Spectacles – or Spectacles That Specifically Magnify

Hyperocular Spectacles ~ Glasses Writ Large There was a Spectacles Blog draft post that had been sitting there doing nothing and going no-where for months because it didn’t seem that interesting!  It was about ancient characters looking through globes of water to magnify (1st Century); Nero looking through an emerald; and 8th Century folk reading Egyptian hieroglyhics through “simple glass meniscal lenses”. It meandered on through the 9th century (Abbas Ibn Firnas and his polished glass balls), the 10th century (first reference to something that led to…) the 13th century (the origination of eyeglasses in Italy).  Then it debated about whether to credit Roger Bacon with […]

Ray-Ban Sunglasses Query: Glass vs. Plastic

And G15 Ray-Ban Sunglasses vs. Polarised Sunglasses Lens My friend John has asked me to answer two queries: [1] Should I have glass lenses or plastic/poly-whatisname? [2] What is Ray-Ban G15 (as seen on the airport stand en route to recent skiing trip!) as against a Polarised lens? I am on the case and will answer within 24 hours.  Meanwhile thank you John for the query… SPECTACLES BLOG ANSWERS [1] From a manufacturing point of view, our info (thanks partly to Wikianswers) tells us that “the G-15 lens is made of impact resistant optical quality glass. It provides 100% Ultraviolet (UV) protection, […]

Famous Four Eyes: Lincoln’s Spectacles

More Antique Spectacles from Antique Spectacles* Abraham Lincoln (Honest Abe: 1861-1865) was the 16th President of the United States.  He is often rated as one of the greatest presidents because of his role in ending slavery and his helping the Union to victory in the civil war.  His assassination made him a martyr to millions. At the Library of Congress they have two pair of his spectacles from a locked leather box which contained the contents of Lincoln’s pockets on the night of his assassination. This remained with his family until it was donated to the Library in 1937. It was only opened in the spring of 1976. […]

V&A Museum – Spectacles Speculation!

King James II’s Spectacles – or Just The Case? A piece on the Victoria & Albert museum (V&A) site begs a question about these antique spectacles. Quoting their website “A fascinating late-18th-century letter accompanied these spectacles when they were acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum, claiming the case had once belonged to James II (1633-1701). It tells us how the object was passed as a gift from person to person, ending with the writer of the letter” There’s a fair old story of the provenance of the spectacles but they conclude that “Stylistically it is possible James II could have owned the case”, […]

Spectacles the Sign of Intelligentsia…

Khmer Rouge Anti-Spectacles ~ Glasses Quoting from Reuters – a bizarre and unpleasant little bit of history… “Survivors of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge atrocities reacted with pain, anger and relief on Tuesday as they watched Pol Pot’s chief torturer in the dock, 30 years after the fall of a regime blamed for 1.7 million deaths.” And of the torturer on trial… “He occasionally donned reading glasses, an ironic twist since the Khmer Rouge targeted those who wore spectacles, seeing that as a mark of the intelligentsia and enemies of the revolution”.

Famous Four Eyes: Bifocal Idea (Not Inventor)!

Benjamin Franklin:  Why Wear Two Pairs Of Glasses When You Can Wear Bi-focals?!  Idea Still Going Strong Today! “Double Spectacles” he first called them and they were to stop the “troublesome” nuisance of switching glasses when reading or looking at the distance.  He had the idea and drew up how to make them but his friendly glasses maker broke three glasses trying to make them.  Their are rivals to the claim on the idea (Dolland?) but this guy is generally credited with it. Once he got them he was amazed at the cleverness.  And of course it is a clever […]

Designer Sunglasses – Vintage Style

Unworn Ray Bans from 50’s/60’s. & other spectacles There’s another wonderful website selling some wonderful and special spectacles, sunglasses and historical pieces too –  Ed Walshes Antique Vintage Eyeglasses.  Check them out if you’re looking beyond the end of your own nose for intersting eyewear! The ones shown here are rare tortoise-shell “Rituals” by Ray Ban.  It says they are men’s. Now I think these particular ones look more like women’s – maybe that’s why they’re unworn (?) but there’s plenty of others which are more clearly mens or womens!  Now if you’re spending a lot of money on sunglasses, prescription […]

Who Invented Spectacles?

Where did glasses come from? A big debate! I keep hearing (& reading) different accounts of where spectacles or glasses came from. Candidates places include Nineveh, Greece, Rome, European monks, Arabia, Venice, Pisa/Florence, London (for ear arms) Candidate materials include crystal, water, glass magnifying spheres, blown glass, ground glass. Image: Adriaen van der Venne, “Elderly lady dancing”/Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum Aachen Some early claims are just for magnification: Correction came later and can be seen (with blurred historical vision) as a separate claim. NB The teacher Sofronius Eusebius Hieronymus (340 – 420 AD) is the patron saint of spectacle makers! I am going […]

“Book, Pipe and Glasses”

Do I need spectacles? The Juan Gris painting Book, Pipe and Glasses fetched $20m last week. The 1915 work, an oil on canvas by Juan Gris, brought a record price in what was said to be  slow auction of Impressionists & modern art. My beef – and now I sound 90 years old (like the painting) – is that I cannot see the glasses!  Where are they?!  Do I need glasses to see the glasses?

Medieval stained glass(es)

Bone framed spectacles I have to give credit to a blogspot dedicated to medieval church art which brought these specs to our attention. (Mr Allan Barton at this link: credit to blogger).  He says the glasses pictured in the stained glass are mid 15th Century (ie 14something!).  He then tracked down the link to The Museum of London which describes the archaeological discovery of a similar set of specs at Trig Lane in the City of London. The London specs are fifteenth century like those in the glass panel.   (See right) They are bone rimmed, and just like the pair portrayed in […]